Communications Workers of America

Communications Workers of America
Communications Workers of America logo.jpg
Full name Communications Workers of America
Founded 1947
Members 549,791 (2008)[1]
Country United States, Canada
Affiliation AFL-CIO, CLC
Key people Larry Cohen, president
Office location Washington, D.C.

Communications Workers of America (CWA) is the largest communications and media labor union in the United States representing about 550,000 members in both the private and public sectors.[1] The union has 27 locals in Canada via CWA-SCA Canada (Syndicat des communications d’Amérique) representing about 8,000 members. CWA has several affiliated subsidiary labor unions bringing total membership to over 700,000. CWA is headquartered in Washington, DC, and affiliated with the AFL-CIO, the Canadian Labour Congress, and Union Network International. The current president is Larry Cohen, a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council.



Verizon members protesting at Occupy Wall Street in October 2011

In 1918 telephone operators organized under the Telephone Operators Department of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. While initially successful at organizing, the union was damaged by a 1923 strike and subsequent AT&T lockout. After AT&T installed company-controlled Employees' Committees, the Telephone Operators Department eventually disbanded.[2] The CWA's roots lie in the 1938 reorganization of telephone workers into the National Federation of Telephone Workers after the Wagner Act outlawed such employees' committees or company unions . After losing a strike with AT&T in 1947, the federation led by Joseph A. Beirne,[3] reorganized as CWA, a truly national union, which affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations in 1949. CWA has continued to expand into areas beyond traditional telephone service. In 1994 the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians merged with the CWA and became The Broadcasting and Cable Television Workers Sector of the CWA, NABET-CWA. Since 1997, it includes The Newspaper Guild, and since 2000 it includes Human Rights Watch's support staff. In 2004, the Association of Flight Attendants merged with CWA, and became formally known as the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, or AFA-CWA.

Contracts and strikes

Following is a partial list of contracts and strikes that the Communications Workers of America were involved in:[4][5][6]

An inflatable rat used by the CWA during a 2009 rally against Verizon
Year Company Number of Members Affected Duration of Strike Notes
1955 Southern Bell Telephone Co. 50,000 72 days Strike was in answer to management's effort to prohibit workers from striking.
1968 AT&T 200,000 18 days Wage increases to compensate for cost of living, and medical benefits won
1971 Bell System 400,000 1 week Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) won for workers
1983 Bell System 600,000 22 days Last contract with the Bell System before its breakup. Bell System sought givebacks. The contract resulted in Wage increases, employment security, pension, and health improvements.
1986 AT&T 175,000 25 days COLA clause suspended in contract - former Bell System contracts vary substantially from the AT&T contract.
1989 AT&T 175,000 n/a Child and elder care benefits added to contract. COLA clause removed from contract
1989 NYNEX 175,000 17 weeks Strike was due to major health care cuts by NYNEX
1998 US West 34,000 15 day Strike was due to overtime demands and forced pay-for-performance plan[7]
2000 Verizon 80,000 3 weeks Strike was due to overtime demands- provisions for stress were won.
2011 Verizon 45,000 13 days Strike was due to major wage and health care cuts by Verizon, a forced pay-for-performance plan and movement-of-work job security provisions. Contract extended.

CWA Affiliates

  • Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) represents over 55,000 flight attendants at 22 airlines. Established in 1945, it affiliated with the CWA in 2004.
  • International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers (IUE-CWA) represents over 45,000 manufacturing and industrial workers.
  • The Newspaper Guild (TNG-CWA) represents over 34,000 media workers at wire services, newspapers, magazines, and broadcast news. Established in 1933, it affiliated with the CWA in 1995.
  • National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET-CWA) represents over 10,000 workers employed in the broadcasting, distributing, telecasting, recording, cable, video, sound recording and related industries. Established in 1934, it affiliated with the CWA in 1994.
  • National Coalition of Public Safety Officers (NCPSO-CWA) represents over 16,000 municipal police, correctional officers, emergency medical services (EMS) workers, communications dispatchers, probation officers, and firefighters.
  • CWA Public, Healthcare and Education Workers represents more than 140,000 workers including social workers, educators, and health care providers.
  • Printing, Publishing and Media Workers Sector (PPMWS-CWA) represents over 8,000 workers in a diverse range of occupations in daily newspapers, commercial printing and mailing operations, and graphic design.

Further reading

  • Bahr, Morton. From the Telegraph to the Internet: A 60 Year History of the CWA. Washington, D.C.: Welcome Rain Publishers, 1998. ISBN 1-56649-949-6
  • Palladino, Grace. Dreams of Dignity, Workers of Vision: A History of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Washington, D.C.: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, 1991.
  • Schacht, John N. The Making of Telephone Unionism, 1920–1947. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1985. ISBN 0-8135-1136-4

See also

Syndicalism.svg Organized labour portal


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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